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Shepperd: 'Not a small missile' in Kuwait attack

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd

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An Iraqi missle struck a pier in Kuwait City sending a shockwave that cause extensive damage to a popular shopping mall. CNN's John Vause reports (March 29)
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(CNN) Kuwaiti officials believe it was an Iraqi Chinese-made Seersucker missile that struck a closed shopping mall in Kuwait City early Saturday, the first such hit on Kuwait in the war. Previous missiles had missed their targets or had been knocked from the sky by Patriot missiles. Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discussed the missile hit in Kuwait and the systems designed to stop such attacks.

SHEPPERD: This Seersucker incident is one of the things the coalition is worried about and one reason why Iraq was prohibited from using various types of missiles during the 1991 agreement that was signed with the United Nations.

Iraq has a test facility that is about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad and west of Karbala in which they do a lot of science projects. They work on these engines and change things so they have a lot of modifications and reverse engineering of these various missiles.

One of the things they could try to figure out is how to put chemical and biological weapons [in them]. You have to do special things to the missiles to deliver them, but that is one thing the coalition is worried about.

It could be shot from a dhow -- a traditional [Arabian] sailing vessel -- but the missile weighs 5,000 pounds. It is not a small missile. It is about 20 feet long and launched from a rail and on a rocket motor. It is more likely it was launched from land and somewhere in the Faw Peninsula. It is not easy to camouflage something like this missile, but it could be done.

It is a big desert out there, so it would not be impossible for irregular forces to sneak in a missile and launch it into Kuwait. There's no love lost between the two countries.

But until now, the Patriot air defense missiles have been working better, if it's true what has been reported. Remember the reports were also positive during the Gulf War. In looking at the pictures on the screen, it looked like they were very successful, and then in after-action studies we found out almost none of the Patriots actually hit the missiles. This time the situation appears to be different.

The new PAC-3 [Patriot Advanced Capability-3] missile, reportedly deployed in Kuwait and being moved forward as well, has improved battle management capability. That means the radars are able to get the missile much farther out in range, to sort it from other things appearing on the radar scope, to engage the missile farther out; and then the increased hit capability results from improved software and hardware. If the reports are correct, it's been very successful.

The air defense system has also been very good. Remember, the missile launch warning goes to Colorado Springs, and then is relayed. And the sirens are turned on as a result of warning about [the] missile launch picked up from satellites out in space. Those sirens had been very accurate every time there was a missile attack.

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd served in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd now runs his own defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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